Vail Valley Cooking Camps and Classes for Kids and Teens

School’s out for summer!! Well, not quite yet but it’s never too early to start planning activities for your Vail Valley child or teen so they stay out of trouble and engaged in healthy activities. Season to Taste is on a mission to help kids and teens get excited about food and cooking!  Chef Ally developed a love of cooking and learning about food at a young age and wants to share that joy with today’s budding chefs.  Not only is cooking a fantastic sensory activity, but they will be cooking and eating food forever and Season to Taste wants to encourage kids and teens to enjoy it. The hope is that your budding chef will not only walk away with an expanded palate and fundamental kitchen skills but, also, the overwhelming significance of how food brings people together. The kitchen table is where stories are told, memories are made, laughs are had and tears are cried.  And, after all, don’t we always end up in the kitchen at a gathering?!

Season to Taste offers one-time cooking classes for kids or teens, such as a birthday party, like this recent 7-year old cooking class birthday party.  Chef Ally went to the home of the birthday girl and taught the girls fundamental skills such as how to properly hold a knife all the way to making fruit kabobs, sliders and sweet potato fries complete with homemade dipping sauce for their fries.

If you’re looking for something more hands-on or long-term, consider a focused fundamental classic techniques class for your child or teen. Chef Ally can come to your home or open up her own Eagle, CO home for your budding chef.  Season to Taste offers different classes geared to the right age group throughout the summer in her home. The next round of summer cooking camps and day classes in the chef’s home are opening in early June once school is out! The schedule will be out soon. Drop us a note if you’d like to stay informed of the upcoming schedule.

To learn more visit www.seasontotasteco.com or reach out to Chef Ally by email: ally@seasontotasteco.com or phone: (303) 523-5539

We can’t wait to see your Vail Valley budding chef in the kitchen soon!

Farm to Table in the Bahamas

Hands down, the absolute best day I had during this chef trip to the Bahamas almost didn’t happen (well, part of it).  The yacht owner has some friends who live on a, mostly private, island.  Since we were anchored right near their beach, he wanted us (the crew) to go spend some time there.  As I was responsible for preparing dinner for them and others that evening, and he really wanted to impress them, I felt a little pressed for time and almost chose not to venture over to their island. However, he was adamant about all of us crew going over to the island to meet his friends and see their land and home.  Since this man had hired me, I felt I should go knowing I could always get back to the yacht via the 30-some foot tender.  Boy am I glad I did!  Check out that beach!  And, those hammocks under the shade right in the water! They built a home over 7 years, some of which is still a work in progress.  Before they could build they had to clear out very thick, dense trees. You can see their home peeking through some of those trees here right behind their private boat dock.  When we pulled up in the tender we were greeted by two beautiful and very hard-working humans. A retired yacht captain and yacht crew member have now turned their “retirement” into a full-time garden tending, solar-power generating, chicken parent caring, beehive keeping, among many other things life.  Their “garden” spanned most of their land.  Their trees were planted with purpose – to bear fruit, vegetables, even spices such as this allspice tree. They kept their own bees to make honey.  They had hydroponics, the beginning of an aquaponics system, and everything in between.  These folks must be up at the crack of dawn and hit the bed at dusk!  They made my day when they let me choose anything I would use the next few days and then just started loading me up.  Check out my bounty (just part of it!)  

This place was heaven on Earth!  Look at those massive collard greens – I’d never seen anything like it! They even had a chocolate pudding fruit tree-never heard of those and they weren’t ripe enough to try but looked beautiful! Almost like a green persimmon.

Below are some more shots, which only show a fraction of what they tended to on a daily basis:

It was breathtaking! I was honored to take some of these gorgeous fruits, veggies and herbs back to the yacht to prepare for the owner and guests.

As you would suspect, it takes a lot of energy to care for what this couple has on their island.  As I mentioned, they run solely off of solar power – amazing!  And, should they ever need to generate more power, why they just start cranking this bad boy like back in the olden days in the military.  Honestly, this was one of the most spectacular experiences I have ever had!  Well, I had to get back to the boat before these folks as they were my dinner guests for the evening.  But she wouldn’t let me leave without saying goodbye to Fred Astaire…

 

All new experiences that I will greatly cherish for a long time to come! I also had a great evening using such fresh ingredients for the dinner!

Vail Private Chef on a Yacht in the Bahamas 2.0

Ahoy Mateys! If someone would have told me three years ago that I would be pursuing my dream of owning a personal chef business, living in the Vail Valley and would have the opportunity to chef on a private yacht in the Bahamas, not once but twice, I would’ve thought they were out of their mind!  Speaking of, it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it!  Thanks for following along on my journey as this Vail personal chef cooked her way through the beautiful Bahamian waters once again! Please note that I did not have any significant wifi while on board so I took notes and will be updating my blog back from the Rocky Mountains.

Off I went, back to the Bahamas, this time to the Abaco Islands.  There wasn’t much (okay no) downtime once I arrived to get reacquainted, provision, adjust, etc. as the first group of guests were already on board!  Not to mention, the next day was Easter so any food store would be closed and most were closed the following day as well.  I tell you what, other countries really know how to take the much needed rest days!

Anyway, there was a small “grocery store” near the marina we were docked at for a couple days.  I grabbed a few items the afternoon I arrived and hoped for the best, most creative juices to come my way and help me make it until Monday or Tuesday when I could provision for the next week or so.  I would say it started out on a high note! Easter brunch the following morning was a feast, albeit “unique,” as one guest mentioned.

Easter brunch consisted of delicious deviled eggs, in honor of my mom who makes them every year, Prosciutto di Parma wrapped melon and mozzarella drizzled with cherry balsamic vinegar, fresh tropical fruit, a serious assortment of fresh sauteed veggies blanketed with…bacon! And, assorted breads with Bahamian guava jam (yum!) Oh, and breakfast dessert of fresh scratch made pumpkin nut bread. And, did you notice those adorable bunny napkins that Amanda whipped together to add to the festiveness?!

As you may remember, the crew gets to eat whatever I prepare them, so, naturally, I fully take advantage of serving us up the same delectable bites.  As you can imagine, the food just gets better and better on these trips!  With that said, I have to fit my daily exercise in whenever and however I can. Since we were still docked at the marina in Treasure Cay, I ran straight to the beach after digesting this Easter feast.  I’m convinced that the Bahamian beaches are among the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen.  Decide for yourself…

I was in such awe of this beauty that I ran a little further than intended this day (sometimes I forget that I also have to run back to the starting point!) Even though I missed being with my family on Easter Sunday, I certainly made the most of this experience!

Hosting a Holiday Dinner Party in the Vail Valley: Why you Need a Personal Chef

If your family and friends are anything like mine, then you know the importance of gathering around the dinner table to celebrate, well, anything when good food and company are involved! If you’re looking to throw an elegant dinner or cocktail party for your family, friends or coworkers – just know that it doesn’t have to be stressful.

While enticing guests with food and wine will certainly make them show up for the party, think of why you wanted them there in the first place. Chances are it is because you enjoy their company and want to mingle and catch up. How does one really mingle with their guests while constantly checking that tenderloin roast in the oven, tending to the tofu for the one vegetarian guest, portioning sides for the gluten intolerant guests, stirring the silky red wine and mushroom sauce, refreshing drinks for all of your guests and setting the dining room table with precision?

Hiring a personal chef, such as Chef Ally with Season to Taste (wink wink!), will gladly take that all on so you can enjoy your evening and guests the way a dinner party is intended. All aspects of the evening are handled from coordinating a menu, shopping, prepping, setting the table, cooking, serving and, best of all, cleaning up! Because, let’s face it, after a few glasses of wine no host wants to clean up that evening and especially doesn’t want to face the kitchen train wreck the next morning!

Lastly, you may be as surprised as I am to realize that it is already November! So, don’t delay in booking your Vail Valley personal chef, Season to Taste, for your company holiday parties or family and friend gatherings. I assure you that you will be so thankful this holiday season for the extra time you get to spend with your guests while enjoying a gourmet meal! Bon appetit!

Market Monday – Vail Farmers Market

Warm temperatures and rapidly melting snow means we are shifting to seasonal spring and summer foods.  I don’t know about you, but visiting a local farmers market makes me feel like a kid in a candy store! The Vail Farmers Market starts on June 18th – and boy am I excited!  Walking past all of the fresh and vibrant fruits and veggies, I can’t help but pick up a few goodies to take home and create wonderful dishes.  One thing I learned about farmers markets is to go in with an open mind.  Don’t have a recipe or specific dish in mind; rather, pick up what looks fresh and delicious to you.

While there are so many beautiful dishes you can make with your farmers market bounty, a simple salad seems to be a quick go to on warm spring days.  Before you reach for that bottle of grocery store bought dressing filled with who knows what, let me share with you how to make a simple vinaigrette.  I promise you may never reach for that bottle of goop again! It’s really so simple and you can “dress” it up to your liking.  While there are steadfast culinary ratios for making a vinaigrette, it really is subjective to your palate so, don’t be afraid to veer from these guidelines. Some people prefer a 3:1 (oil to vinegar/acid) ratio while others favor a 2:1 (oil to vinegar/acid) ratio.  Play with the portions and find what works for you and your family.

Basic Vinaigrette:

3 or 2 parts Neutral Oil (grapeseed, canola, sunflower, etc.) or Olive Oil

1 or 2 parts Vinegar/Acid (sherry, red wine, apple cider, balsamic, rice etc.)

Season to taste (see what I did there?!) with salt and pepper

What they would tell you in culinary school is to whisk the vinegar, salt and pepper (and other non-oil ingredients) into a bowl until well combined.  Then, slowly drizzle in the oil in order to emulsify the vinaigrette.  However, don’t tell my chef instructor, but you can just take an empty container with a secure lid (I save glass jars) pour all the ingredients into the jar and shake it like a Polaroid picture!

That’s all!  Really! Put any leftovers in your fridge and use for about a week.  Make sure you take the dressing out about 30 minutes before you use it as the oil will coagulate in the fridge.  As long as you’re making extra vinaigrette for the week, you might as well chop extra veggies and lettuce so you have a go to salad every day as well!

Other variations and ideas to try:

  • Puree some fresh raspberries for a raspberry vinaigrette
  • Add in chopped fresh oregano and basil for an herb vinaigrette
  • Citrus – of any kind!
  • Add in Dijon mustard and honey – this is my go to with a little squeeze of lemon added as well
  • Blanch some garlic and add along with some plain Greek yogurt for a creamy garlic vinaigrette
  • Bacon?! Who doesn’t love bacon? A warm bacon vinaigrette is simply delicious
  • Add pureed carrots and fresh ginger
  • Play with the type of vinegar you use – you will be amazed at how simple of a change can drastically change the flavor

What are your favorite farmers market finds and dishes you create?

Transition Thursday

As I sit down and write to you all, it is from a snow-capped mountain and not the electric blue Bahamian waters as it was last time we talked.  I’ll call that a win-win in my book though! Some of you may know that we, hubby, fur babies and I, recently traded city life for mountain life and haven’t looked back!  As we settle in to our new mountain community in the Vail Valley, this also means growing my personal chef business in a new mountain community.  I am up for the challenge!  I get to meet a myriad of beautiful new souls while peppering them with delicious food. I love it!

One of the first events I attended in my new community was a business women’s networking event.  While I did have business cards to pass around that evening, I took it one step further and handed out dark chocolate cherry almond bark to accompany my business card.  I’m guessing the ladies will remember that long after my card may have, inadvertently ;), ended up on the bottom of a pile who knows where.  You only get one chance to make a first impression.  For myself and my business, I strive to make it a memorable and pleasant experience. Lucky for me, most people love food, especially when accompanied by a warm smile!

With a new community comes new opportunities.  Apart from the women’s networking event in Vail, another one of the top business ventures I’ve encountered thus far is cooking for a multi million dollar open house.   I was honored to be hired for this event by our Vail Valley Realtor (he also happens to be the photographer behind some of these amazing shots from the open house).  I’ve been hired as the chef for many open houses, but this was a first in the real estate business. The clientele were mostly other local brokers perusing the home before bringing in their clients.  I had so much fun at this event. It was an amazing opportunity and I was able to interact within my new community.  It didn’t hurt that the home was breathtaking and situated right on a creek next to Beaver Creek Resort!  And, check out this kitchen! On the menu that day was a Greek Vegetable Salad, Prosciutto, Aged Gouda and Apple Sandwiches, House Made Ricotta and Heirloom Tomato Sandwiches, Pork Carnitas Tacos, Veggie Tacos, Carrot Cake Bites and Dark Chocolate Dipped Macaroons.  I look forward to the next open house and creating more delicious treats for Vail Valley!

Needless to say, this transition to a new mountain lifestyle has been filled with amazing new people, fantastic aromas and melt in your mouth food.  The best part, we are just getting started!  I can’t wait to share all of the adventures with you!

 

Seas The Moment

I know the suspense must’ve been killing you on the name of the yacht.  Seas The Moment.  I felt it was quite fitting for the experience I embarked on and thought I would share with you some of the things I learned as a private chef on a yacht.

Take chances! Some things seem to be way out of our comfort zone but isn’t that the point? To push yourself and become a better version of you all while enjoying the ride of life? When I agreed to chef on the private yacht, I was more anxious than I would like to admit. Not to mention that I had only been on a yacht once in my life for about 3 hours total, but I worried about sourcing food and providing delicious gourmet food to people who have likely dined in Michelin starred restaurants more than the average person.  However, I accepted the challenge to cook on this yacht for a month and you know I was not going to let my fears get in the way of creating beautiful and delicious food.  I cooked up a storm for about 21 days straight and it felt good (and exhausting!)  I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around how amazing of an opportunity and experience I just lived through. While I, without a doubt, missed my hubby and fur babies, I am proud of myself that I “Seas(ed) The Moment” and can now say I have been a chef on a private yacht in the Bahamas!

 This is a view from the galley where I spent the majority of my time over the last several weeks!  Not a bad office view! I had a few moments when I wanted nothing more than to put down my knife and just go jump in the water.  But, if you’ve been following along, you know I spent plenty of time enjoying the beautiful islands! I do know that I have no desire to ever work as a chef in a restaurant.  I never want to get burned out on something I love to do!  I want to continue to share this passion and my food with others.  I also have a feeling that I will be back on board in the future serving up scrumptious food to yacht guests.  Sounds like the perfect gig during mud season…

For now, I am back in the Colorado mountains gearing up to serve locals and visitors delectable dishes!  Thank you to those who followed along on my cooking adventure in the beautiful Bahamas!

Exumas: Part 2

The owner and his wife provided much appreciation and praise for my cooking. She especially loved how flavorful my food was but also how light everything was by not bathing in heavy sauces. I’ll chalk that up as a win! That and the fact that they insisted I go out on their daily excursions with them once all my prep work was done!
They seemed to truly have an interest in me seeing these beautiful cays and waters! I’m pretty sure that’s not normal to have the guests urging you to go snorkeling, swimming with piggies, jet skiing, etc. I soaked up every minute! Out of all the activities I was able to enjoy while working was Thunderball Grotto, where two James Bond movies have been filmed, and snorkeling off Norman’s Cay, where an old drug plane had crashed just before reaching the almost 5,000 foot long air strip. I’m sure the crew enjoyed me snorkeling that as well seeing as I was continuously swimming in circles doing perimeter checks for hammerheads that happen to breed in the lagoon directly south of the site of the plane crash! I also did love Rachel’s Bubble Bath until the ocean wrapped me in one of her ferocious waves and spit me out into coral. (Let’s just say if you ever get a scraped by coral, do not take it lightly! It is bacteria ridden and I’ll be going home with a nasty infection.)
 
 
I know what you’re thinking right about now. Am I reading about a travel blog or a personal chef blog about someone who is supposed to be working on a yacht?! Well, the phrase work hard play hard is the epitome of yacht crew life! So, back to the galley for me where I’m whipping up stone crab Benedicts with handmade hollandaise for brunch. 
Then for dinner, the menu was as follows: Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup for a starter; papaya granita intermezzo; herb encrusted rack of lamb and a Boston Creme Pie for dessert (Captain’s choice as it was her birthday!)

Exumas: Part 1

We pulled into the Staniel Cay marina after the sun had set, you know, since we had to make a pit stop to go buy a chest freezer. Waking up that next morning, I saw my first glimpse of some of the most gorgeous waters I’d ever laid eyes on! That and Nurse Sharks, which they say are friendly and you can swim with them. However, days later I saw them being fed hot dogs near another cay and the were quick to lunge themselves on top of one another with a wide open chomp splashing back down into the clear electric blue water.

The second group of guests arrived that morning. These guests happened to be the owner and wife of the yacht. A tinge of nerves came over me in preparation of their arrival. Of course, I wanted these people to like me and the food I would be preparing over the next 10 days. Those nerves quickly faded away just as the ocean goes to low tide. They greeted me with a hug and smiling faces.

Earlier that day, we had approached some locals to go out spear fishing for spiny lobster and either grouper, tuna, wahoo or snapper. They came back about an hour after the owners climbed on board. They were not empty handed. They pulled out 5 of the largest live lobsters I’ve ever seen! (Yes, I m from Colorado so this might not have much validation!) But, see for yourself!

   

 

Since the larger lobster tails tend to be more tough, I prepared the smaller tails for the guests and reserved the larger ones for the crew and myself.

 

My previous dinner plans for that first evening quickly got put on the back burner and lobster tails for dinner it was.

Of course after their stone crab claw with mustard sauce starter that is! You know you have hit the yacht crew jackpot when your Captain offers to crack the claws for you!

 

 

 

To show you just how large some of these local (and amazingly delectable) crustaceans can be, below is one of the claws in comparison to my hand!

Yep, the food and life as a chef on a yacht is oh so sweet!

Yacht Chef Odds and Ends

I have decided that I am officially adding “Traveling Chef for Hire” to my resume! Anyone need a personal chef for their vacation in Hawaii😉  I’m your gal!


I received one of the greatest compliments from one of the guests a few days ago, which made all this hard work worth it! (Well, that and the fact that I am cooking in the most beautiful place!) This guest told me that she puts me up there with the yacht’s former full time chef who now happens to chef for Mitt Romney on his yacht. What a humbling compliment! Not sure what dishes she loved the most. We already know it wasn’t their welcome dinner seeing as they have no recollection of that evening!

But maybe it was the shrimp two ways. Citrus Shrimp in an Avocado over Dressed Greens and Asian Shrimp Cakes?!  Or possibly…

Marinated Steak with Herb Butter over a Mojo Sauce and Roasted Potatoes and Veggies?!

I realize these pictures (mostly the scenery pictures) don’t do it justice. They never do! But take it from me, this continues to be one of the greatest experiences of my life! And, I’m a firm believer if something doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!

Well, were off to Staniel Cay now.  Google this place immediately if you’re not familiar! Just as soon as the compressor in the freezer is done being installed. Yes, the same freezer is still down. A guy came yesterday to install a new compressor and I kid you not, he showed up with just his flip flops! Not a single tool! Oh Island life! Talk to you all soon(ish) I’m losing wifi for the foreseeable future.